Thursday, June 11, 2009

Water Temp
Yesterday was another 30 minute/2.45 mile workout. Today was a rest day although I got in the pool to stretch and walk for ten minutes.
Several people have asked about the temperature of the water. Normally for physical therapy uses the temperature is kept at 92 - 94 degrees F. I found that for longer runs, especially over 60 minutes, I have to lower the temperature to about 80 - 81 degrees F. Otherwise I become too overheated and performance suffers.
One aspect of spinal cord injuries that is not discussed much is temperature regulation. Anyone with a high spinal cord injury (neck or upper back region) will have a disruption of thermal regulation. These individuals typically do not sweat below the injury level and short of panting like a dog, easily become overheated. This can cause more serious problems such as autonomic dysreflexia (an abnormal sympathetic nervous system response; think too much adrenaline) or heat stroke.
When exposed to a cold environment the paralyzed body does not form goose flesh and does not shiver; two mechanisms the body uses to preserve and generate heat. This combined with muscle atrophy from paralysis, often leads to the person feeling "cold-to-the-bone" and requires quite some time to rewarm. For individuals with incomplete paralysis and spasticity, the cold causes increased spasiticity and stiffness making it more difficult to move.
For me, cold definitely affects my ease of movement and coordination. However, too much heat usually leads to rapid fatigue, increased nerve pain (from my paralysis) and sometimes a headache. Finding the right water temperature for long runs has required some trial and error.

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